Prominent gay nightlife figure accused of groping, pressuring young men for sex

Source: Hot Air

NBC News reported this last week and I haven’t seen anyone talking about it. That surprises me because I definitely see some similarities to the Harvey Weinstein story. Many of the people Weinstein had sex with did so willingly, often because they believed it would help them get a job in one of his movies. Michael J. Cohen seems to have been doing something very similar in New York’s gay nightlife scene where he had the ability to decide who would be invited to all the best parties and who would be kept out. And he used that power to demand sex from young men. This story sounds like something right out of Weinstein’s playbook:

In 2017, Stephen Carlstrom, then 21 and working as a model while in college, said that Cohen, who was 40 at the time, promised him a lucrative gig attending parties and then pressured him to perform oral sex. The job opportunity never transpired, Carlstrom said.

“It just felt extremely predatory and manipulative afterward,” Carlstrom said. “I definitely wouldn’t have done that if he didn’t talk me into it.”

And like Weinstein, Cohen had access to celebrities:

Cohen has hosted gay parties at glamorous New York nightclubs — including Goldbar, PHD Rooftop Lounge at the Dream Downtown hotel and Fishbowl at the Dream Midtown hotel — with reliable crowds of attractive men and star-studded guest lists. Some of the world’s most well-known gay celebrities, including British Olympic gold medalist Tom Daley, actor Neil Patrick Harris and rapper Lil Nas X, have been photographed with Cohen or made an appearance at Motel 23.

One of the main reasons this story made it to NBC News is because of an Instagram account that has been posting stories about Cohen and his club since July. For example.

The NBC story ends with a long series of allegations about Cohen, all of which his spokesperson denied.

J. said he and his friends regularly attended the parties Cohen hosted at the nightclub Fishbowl that year, and he quickly learned that he had to put up with Cohen’s groping if he wanted continued access to these events.

“In the beginning, where he says he wants us to hug him before we go in, it’s so he could touch you,” J. said. “He would touch us and grope us really hard before we got to go into the club.”

J. said that in the few instances when others in line refused Cohen’s advances — or even if they didn’t smile enough or say thank you — Cohen humiliated them in front of the line of people waiting outside the club.

“You had to do what he said because otherwise it wasn’t just you getting quietly turned away at the door, you were getting publicly turned away at the door,” he said. “Everybody did what they had to do to save themselves from embarrassment.”

Hall denied J.’s allegations.

Again, this is just one of several stories like this documented in the article.

Update: I came across this story from back in 2017 titled “How does Harvey Weinstein happen? Visit a gay bar with me.” Author Marc Ambinder argued that some of the bad behavior discussed in this story is tolerated at many gay clubs.

Take a trip with me. Imagine being gay, or queer, at a club, or a bar, with the lights turned down, the fog machines blowing. It’s around midnight. People are drunk or getting there. The groping starts. Shirts come off. Hands trace down backs and starts cupping butt cheeks.

Rarely is consent obtained or given beforehand. Occasionally crotches are groped. Occasionally quite aggressively. Some people let it happen. Some welcome it. Sometimes a joke is uttered by one of the parties: “Haha, I can’t help myself.” And sometimes people pull away. Sometimes they slap hands away. Sometimes friends step in.

But almost never are there consequences for this. There are no fights. No complaints to bouncers or a security guard. I have never seen anyone get kicked out of a bar for being too handsy. The same people are there, the next week, testing boundaries, stepping up the ladder of predatory behavior…

No doubt some people, perhaps a lot of people, enjoy these random encounters and feel that they don’t need to give explicit consent beforehand. But many others seem to accept the assault on their personal space as if it were part of price they have to pay for going out and enjoying themselves.